Friday, January 25, 2013

Lady Williams

The third, and youngest, of my trio of historic apples along the walk to the front door is Lady Williams. It is a truly delicious apple, and grows remarkably well in our warm climate. I planted it in the early part of 2011 as a benchgraft, a single bud grafted onto a root stock that I purchased from Kuffel Creek, and this year already, it gave me its first harvest, six very deep red, round apples.

Each of my apples ripens at different times: the Wickson in mid-October, the Golden Russet in mid-November, and Lady Williams, right now in mid-January, when my Desert Delight nectarine is just beginning to bloom. And after the long, hot summer, and the dusty fall, the week of frosts followed by a week of warm weather, the fruit are amazing, very juicy with a snappy skin, and an exploding, cidery tang. This is not a shy apple in any way, not for those who don't want the tart to go with the sweet. Yet for those who seek out such complex flavors, this apple is a treasure.

The tree originated in Australia, near a small town called Donnybrook, in the Boxer's jowls of southwestern Australia. This area has a climate very similar to our own in Southern California, as pointed out on Cloudforest Gardener's wiki, which reads:
Lady Williams originated in a Mediterranean climate at 33″S similar to the inland valleys of Los Angeles, CA (34″N), suggesting Lady Williams is ideal in those areas. The average Winter low for Donnybrook is 42F, with an average high of 62F in the Winter, climbing to 87F at the peak of Summer, with the bulk of the precipitation falling in the Winter.
According to Bob Williams (link to interview), the son of the farmer who discovered the seedling growing next to his water tank in 1935, Lady Williams almost didn't make it. His brother hacked the young seedling down once, but his mother propped the broken tree back up and nursed it to health. Then, Bob himself, as a destructive youngster, yanked at it, nearly pulling the whole tree out except for one root. His mother, frustrated and protective of the young tree, once again propped it up and nursed it back. Soon after, it fruited; and after revealing its very special secret, it was safe. Naturally, the name comes from its savior, Bob's mother, who neighbors called "Lady Williams." A seedling with unknown parentage—some speculate Granny Smith, others Jonathan—it is the parent of two well-known apples, Sundowner and Pink Lady (aka Cripp's Pink).

It is nearly impossible in the United States to get scionwood for Lady Williams, and the only place in this country that I know sells grafted trees of it is Kuffel Creek. I hope, as the tree gains some size, to be able to share scionwood not only through CRFG, but also through Seed Savers' Exchange, because this is an apple worth protecting and nurturing. Lady Williams, at least in our country, once again could use some more propping up.


Pasadena Adjacent said...

speaking of apples - did you see the show at the California Museum of Art in Pasadena. An artist did a room on the subject of apples. Photos and ceramics. Up through the 24 of Feb. And if your at your computer right nose...the Norton Simon is free tonight until 9pm 01/01/13

Christina said...

No, I haven't seen it, but thanks for putting that on my radar!